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LAPD Commission Sez Venice Shooting Was Unjustified, a Bill to Bar For-Profit Immigrant Detention Contracts, and Pt. Two of MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge

April 14th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

LAPD COMMISSION SAYS FATAL SHOOTING OF VENICE HOMELESS MAN VIOLATED LAPD POLICY

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Police Commission sided with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, unanimously deciding that LAPD officer Clifford Proctor’s fatal shooting of an unarmed homeless man, Brendon Glenn, was an unjustified use of deadly force.

Video and other evidence from the May 2015 shooting led police investigators to determine that during an altercation, Proctor shot 29-year-old Glenn twice in the back while Glenn was lying on his stomach on the ground. Proctor said he believed Glenn was trying to take his partner’s gun, but the video evidence did not show Glenn’s hand to be on or near the holster, nor did Proctor’s partner do anything to indicate Glenn was going after his gun, according to the report.

In January, Chief Beck recommended that the LA County District Attorney’s Office charge Proctor in the death of Glenn. It was the first time the chief had recommended criminal charges for a fatal on-duty shooting.

In 2015, in LA, cops shot at civilians 48 times, hitting their target 37 times, and killing 22 total. In a story we crossposted with The Crime Report on Wednesday, Joe Domanick explains and gives context to the LA Police Commission’s revised use-of-force policies, which prioritize “de-escalation” techniques during confrontations to reduce the number of unarmed civilians shot by officers. (Domanick is the West Coast Bureau Chief of the Crime Report and author of Blue: the LAPD and the Battle to Redeem American Policing.)

The LA Times’ Kate Mather has more on the commission’s decision regarding the Venice shooting. Here’s a clip:

The decision capped an 11-month review of Glenn’s death, one of several shootings by LAPD officers last year that fueled criticism of police and how officers use force, particularly against African Americans. Glenn was black, as is Proctor.

The ruling also renewed pressure on L.A. County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey to file criminal charges against Proctor. This year, Beck said he had urged Lacey to charge Proctor. It was the first time as chief that Beck has called for charges against one of his officers in a fatal on-duty shooting.

Such prosecutions are rare in L.A. County, where the district attorney’s office hasn’t charged a law enforcement officer in an on-duty shooting in 15 years. An office spokeswoman said the case was still being reviewed.

Within hours of the Police Commission’s decision, local activists again called for Lacey to prosecute Proctor. Najee Ali said the ruling, coupled with Beck’s earlier recommendation, was further proof that the district attorney needed to act.

“This is a true litmus test for Lacey,” he said.

Beck said the commission’s decision “certainly supports” what he told the district attorney.

“I find many times that shootings are out of policy and they don’t reflect criminal charges,” he said. “But that’s not the case in this one.”


CA BILL WOULD MAKE CA CITIES AND COUNTIES DUMP THEIR CONTRACTS WITH FOR-PROFIT IMMIGRANT DETENTION CENTERS

A new California bill sponsored by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) would block cities and counties from contracting with controversial for-profit prison companies running immigrant detention centers.

“Our state and local governments should not be complicit in this awful practice of profiting off of human suffering,” Lara said. “This critical first-in-the-nation legislation would make the currently unenforceable national immigration standards the law of the land in the golden state.”

Four municipalities, including cash-strapped Adelanto, are contracting with private detention centers and would be affected by the bill.

The small city of Adelanto in San Bernardino County contracts with the scandal-plagued GEO Group, which runs a city jail and the Adelanto Detention Facility, where undocumented immigrants are held. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement pays Adelanto about $4 million a month to hold around 1,200 immigrants in its detention center. (All-told, ICE holds 62% of its detainees in for-profit detention centers.)

City Councilman John Woodard says a fourth of the city’s income comes from its contracts with the private prison group.

GEO Group, the second largest for-profit prison operator, is often accused of medical neglect and abuse, and at Adelanto and other facilities, enforces lock-up quotas—which trigger financial penalties for empty jail and prison beds.

The bill would also require the immigrant detention facilities to comply with (currently optional) federal standards, and would make it easier for immigrants to take legal action against the private prisons for rights violations.

KPCC’s Leslie Berestein Rojas has more on the bill. Here’s a clip:

With the Adelanto facility’s daily population averaging roughly 1,200 and based on the per-diem rate, ICE pays up to about $4 million a month — and more if the detention center is filled to its 1,940-detainee capacity.

But a bill sponsored by state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) could put an end to Adelanto’s immigrant detention contract.

“For far too long, our immigration system has promoted profits over people,” Lara told KPCC. “The goal is to prohibit these for-profit companies from profiting off the backs of immigrants.”

Cities like Adelanto depend on detention space revenue. In Adelanto, which nearly went bankrupt last year, City Council member John “Bug” Woodard, a self-described Tea Party Republican, said the GEO contracts are vital to the city’s economy.

“I think a good 25 percent of our income comes from those jailhouses,” Woodard said. “GEO is an important part of this community, and any idiot up in Sacramento that would like us not to do business with them, they’ve got their heads where the sun don’t shine.”


PHASE TWO ANNOUNCED IN MACARTHUR FOUNDATION NATIONAL CHALLENGE TO REFORM JAILS

On Wednesday, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced just under $25 million in funding for 11 jurisdictions nationwide to move to the second round of the foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, which aims to “create fairer, more effective local justice systems across the country.”

The MacArthur Foundation whittled down 11 jurisdictions from an original group of 20 selected in 2015 to be mentored by experts as they created plans to reform their local jail systems.

The 11 jurisdictions are:

- Charleston County, SC
- Harris County, TX
- Lucas County, OH
- Milwaukee County, WI
- New Orleans, LA
- New York City, NY
- Philadelphia, PA
- Pima County, AZ
- Spokane County, WA
- State of Connecticut
- St. Louis County, MO

Los Angeles County was one of original 20 jurisdictions chosen last year, but did not make it to the second round of full mentoring and funding.

Los Angeles and the other eight remaining counties will receive $150,000 grants, as well as technical assistance from experts, to keep up their reform efforts as part of the Safety and Justice Challenge Network.

Posted in LAPD, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Can “De-Escalation” Training Help the LAPD Shoot Fewer People? by Joe Domanick

April 13th, 2016 by witnessla


The LAPD’s New Plan to Shoot Fewer People

by Joe Domanick

“Every second counts, and hesitation will kill you,” Jamie McBride told the Los Angeles Police Commission last month.

McBride, a director of the Police Protective League, the Los Angeles Police Department’s rank-and-file union, was testifying at a hearing called to discuss the commission’s proposal to establish new guidelines for officers’ use of force—and he didn’t mince words.

The guidelines, he said “will get officers killed, plain and simple.”

The union director went on to deliver a chilling warning to the five civilians who sit on the commission: “Make no mistake, if an officer is killed as a result …. [his] blood will be on your hands.”

McBride’s comments weren’t unexpected. They reflected the traditional distrust of cops for rules set by outsiders that limit officers’ ability to maneuver in fast-moving and often dangerous situations.

But McBride’s testimony was overshadowed by a just-released report on officer-involved-shootings in Los Angeles during 2015. The commission, which sets Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) policy, could hardly avoid the alarming numbers spelled out in the report: 48 officer-involved shootings, 37 of which hit suspects, 22 of them fatally.

The eleven that hit no one were not warning shots: cops had simply missed their target.

It’s not just LA’s problem of course.

Since 2014, caught-on-camera police killings have fueled a national movement for change, which only seems to grow stronger each month.

But no one listening to McBride that day could have avoided a stark comparison with some other big-city police departments. In Chicago, with a population that’s somewhat smaller than that of LA, and where gun violence seems to set new records each year, officers shot 22 people in 2015, killing eight. In New York, with roughly three times as many police officers and a population about twice as large as LA’s, officers shot 32 people last year, nine fatally.

The proposal by LA’s Police Commission, which so angered McBride, was far from radical. It focused on training cops to avoid the kinds of confrontations that lead to officers shooting unarmed civilians—-many of whom, as critics point out, are stopped on the flimsiest of pretexts.

The strategy is called “de-escalation.”

The force behind LA’s new strategy is commission president Matthew Johnson, who was named to the post only last year. Johnson, whose day job is managing partner of an entertainment law firm of 30 attorneys, is an African-American native of New Jersey. A graduate of New York University Law School, he moved to LA “literally three weeks,” as he put it, after the 1992 LA riots.

In formulating the strategy, Johnson took a lawyer’s careful approach. He first ordered a ten-year review of LAPD shootings. At the same time, the review examined a wide range of training policies that guide officer behavior and ultimately influence tactics, including procedures for handling the mentally ill, as well as alternatives to using deadly-force weapons.

Based on that review, the commission concluded that the department’s previous approach, which called on officers to demonstrate “a reverence for human life,” was far too vague. Instead, it called for a new approach that was not just aimed at minimizing shootings, but would train and reward officers who used de-escalation tactics to avoid them—and hold accountable cops who did not.

In its revised policy guidelines, the commission said that, henceforth, shooting a suspect would be considered “in-policy” only if it occurred as a last resort.

A key component of the stricter accountability called for in the guidelines was already in place. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and the commission had instituted a requirement that all patrol officers wear body cameras, and that every patrol car be equipped with a camera.

Outside critics were already unhappy with some elements of the camera policy, namely providing the right to review any use-of-force tapes before an officer made a sworn shooting statement, thus allowing the officer to present his account in the best possible light, given the hard evidence represented by the video recordings.

Nevertheless, the support of Beck, and the grudging acceptance of the union for the cameras, gave the commission what it considered a crucial new oversight tool in adjudicating use-of-force incidents.

“The cameras,” Johnson said in a conversation with me, “have made a huge difference [in determining accountability.] At the end of the day the video is what the video is. You can only explain so much, but the video is going to stand on its own.”

Beck and the commission had already begun reviewing officer-involved shootings to consider not just whether the shooting was in or out-of-policy, but whether the tactics leading up to the shooting were appropriate. So some elements of the revised guidelines weren’t new.

What is different, however, is that, as a result of the commission’s decision, de-escalation will be written into official policy, mandating that officers be trained in de-escalation techniques that they must use in their interactions with citizens.

Failure to do so will now be cause to declare a shooting “out-of-policy,” even if the officer, because of his failure, had placed himself in a position where he felt he had to fire his weapon to protect himself. An out-of-policy finding has become a serious matter in the LAPD, one that can result in anything from required retraining, to a reprimand, loss of promotion, or firing.

Some of the de-escalation training is also already in place. Shooting scenarios are now performed with actors playing suspects. The scenarios graphically demonstrate how to avoid the need to shoot, focusing on when a trainee might have used de-escalation but didn’t.

“They learn how the right way of talking to a suspect, and the right display of empathy and body language [that] can de-escalate a situation,” said Beck.

Indeed, despite the union’s objections, some experts outside the LAPD do believe a well-executed de-escalation training regime can make officers—and the public—safer.

According to Michael Gennaco, who oversaw reform efforts for the Los Angeles County Sheriffs’ Department, officers can slow down an escalating situation by taking cover, and calling for back-up or specialized units. They can also try to calm individuals, being careful not to get so close to a suspect that a mere gesture might cause the officer to lose his or her cool.

Clearly, as Gennaco says, “Some shootings are unavoidable; you’ll never get to zero.”

But he adds, “You can strive to get the number as low as possible, and avoid the ‘lawful but awful’ kinds of deadly force incidents that we have seen too many times.”

But is following de-escalation policy sufficient by itself?

Training in avoiding interactions that can quickly spin out of control is obviously critical—-but only if it’s built into community policing strategy. Successful police-citizen interaction ultimately has to be based on efforts to gain the acceptance and respect of the public. De-escalation of volatile incidents is only a first step.

Whether they fall “in” or “out” of the new policy guidelines, police shootings will continue to shock the public conscience unless law enforcement departments establish a clear goal of establishing legitimacy in the communities they serve.

Near the end of my interview with Matt Johnson, I asked him how the LA Police Commission would monitor compliance with the new policy, which is scheduled to be implemented within the next 30 days.

“We have an inspector general with a staff of 40 auditors and investigators who will insure the policy is complied with,” he said.

“And if this policy doesn’t work, we’ll try something else.”


Joe Domanick is West Coast bureau chief of The Crime Report. This column is being published in partnership with VICE and The Crime Report. Joe welcomes comments from readers.


Photo by Chris Yarzeb courtesy of Creative Commons

Posted in LAPD | 9 Comments »

LAPD Commission Adopts New Use-of-Force Policy…Santa Clara Sheriff Laurie Smith’s Reform Efforts…and Criminalized Black Girls

March 16th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

NEW LAPD USE-OF-FORCE POLICIES FOCUS ON DE-ESCALATION

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Police Commission approved 12 recommendations from the Inspector General for revising the LAPD’s deadly use-of-force policies to prioritize de-escalation tactics.

Under the revisions officers attempts at de-escalation in a violent situation will be taken into consideration when determining the reasonableness of a particular use of force.

Deadly force, the IG’s report says, should only be used when non-lethal alternatives have been exhausted. And before engaging with mentally ill and homeless populations on Skid Row, all officers assigned to the Resources Enhancement Services and Enforcement Team will complete specialized training.

Some of the recommendations will likely be amended as LAPD officials work through them with the IG and commission.

KPCC’s Ashley Bailey has more on the changes and reactions from law enforcement, advocates, and criminal justice experts. Here’s a clip:

“Changes to policy are not done lightly or often so the intention is to build something that will work not just for today, but going forward,” said Police Commission President Matt Johnson at Tuesday’s meeting.

Johnson, along with Commissioner Robert Saltzman authored the recommendations, which are a skeleton framework for policy changes the commission, LAPD officials, and the Inspector General will hash out in the coming weeks.

Commissioners indicated that three of the most controversial recommendations will be amended as those talks go on. Those items deal with determining whether an officer’s use of force was reasonable, whether they used deadly force only as a last option, and limiting the use of rifles and slug ammunition.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said he supported revisiting the use-of-force policy, but cautioned against creating policies that might put police officers at risk.

“I understand what the commission wants to do–they want to emphasize some of the things that the police department is doing to minimize use of force,” Beck said. “And one of those things is deescalation.”

“We’re not asking (officers) to endanger their lives, but if these strategies are implemented correctly, it should keep both our officers and the community safer,” Johnson said.


SANTA CLARA SHERIFF GETS TO WORK ON FIXING TROUBLED JAILS

On Tuesday, Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith proposed a package of important reforms to reduce the use of excessive force within county jails and improve mental health care for inmates.

The 13 reforms include appointing an inspector general, creating a permanent civilian oversight commission, boosting mental health training for guards, bolstering education programs for inmates, and beefing up background checks and minimum qualifications for prospective guards.

A recent report on conditions within Santa Clara County jails found numerous allegations of excessive force, delayed medical and mental health care, a broken grievance-reporting system, unchecked jail personnel misconduct, and other systemic problems. The report was commissioned by a blue ribbon panel formed after three guards were charged with the murder of a mentally ill inmate, Michael Tyree.

Sheriff Smith even installed an interim camera system for the jails after hearing that implementing new security cameras would cost $20 million and take until 2018. Smith took a trip to Costco, spending $761.24 on 12 security cameras to test in the Main Jail.

San Jose Mercury News’ Tracey Kaplan has the story. Here’s a clip:

In her jail reform plan, Smith lays out 13 goals, including significantly beefing up training to help guards cope with an increasingly mentally ill population of more serious offenders, improving inmate education programs, and increasing minimum qualifications and background checks for prospective guards. For instance, correctional deputies currently only have to have the equivalent of a high school diploma; Smith now wants to require they have some combination of college course work and/or experience in criminal justice work or mental health. She also wants to upgrade background checks on applicants, including by having them take two polygraph tests instead of one.

Only one other major urban county in California – Los Angeles County — has an inspector general and citizens commission to supervise the jails. An inspector general monitors custody operations and facilities, including medical and mental health care; issues reports, including on use of force; and makes recommendations for improvement.

“Before the death of Michael Tyree there were many reforms and initiatives being worked on to improve custody operations,” Smith said. “Michael’s unfortunate death accelerated these efforts.”

Reaction to Smith’s plan Tuesday was mixed. The head of Santa Clara County’s jail-improvement commission and one of the attorneys who filed the class-action suit against the jails both noted that Smith was being reactive, not proactive, but praised her for quickly moving ahead. Many of the sheriff’s recommendations echo what the commission has been urging, including support for an independent inspector general. The group’s formal recommendations are expected to come out in April.

“These are things every correctional system should be doing,” said attorney Kelly Knapp of the Berkeley-based Prison Law Office. “But she’s headed in the right direction sooner than most, unlike many institutions that need to lose a court battle to make changes.”


PUSHING BLACK GIRLS OUT OF THE CLASSROOM AND INTO THE JUSTICE SYSTEM

Black girls frequently receive more severe punishments than white girls for the same offenses at school, despite not being any more likely to act out than their white counterparts, according to a 2014 report from the National Women’s Law Center and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

According to Dept. of Education data, black girls make up just 17% of enrolled female students, but receive 31% of girls’ referrals to law enforcement, and comprise 43% of school arrests of all female students.

In an interview with The Atlantic’s Melinda Anderson, author and co-founder of the National Black Women’s Justice Institute Monique Morris discusses her new book, Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools, the racial and gender bias fueling the pushout, the victimization behind the “delinquency,” and the “healing power of the narrative.” Here’s a clip:

Melinda D. Anderson: The shocking statistics you cite in the opening chapter—on poverty, dropouts, incarceration, and homicide—paint a chilling picture of the plight of black girls and women today. Can you briefly discuss some of the complex dynamics, the social and economic factors, triggering this situation?

Monique W. Morris: The dynamics here are, indeed, complex. I believe it’s important for us to understand that the negative socioeconomic conditions for black women and girls are related to how race, gender, class, sexual identity, ability, and other identities interact with each other to undermine equal access to opportunity. Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality,” which captures this idea. Black women and girls must often navigate through a landscape that reinforces multidimensional stereotypes and debilitating narratives that negatively impact how black femininity is understood. Implicit racial and gender biases may also inform how we read the behaviors and actions of black girls and women, and how all of this comes together to guide whether black girls are safe in their communities and whether they have access to quality employment, food, housing, and education.

Anderson: You write that black girls are frequently marginalized and criminalized by institutions that should be safeguarding their well-being. Talk about some of the ways that institutional racism, classism, and sexism overlap to portray black girls as “delinquent,” and in the process impede their hopes and aspirations?

Morris: The book talks about educational institutions as “structures of dominance” that can either reinforce negative outcomes and ghettoize opportunity or actively disrupt conditions that render black girls vulnerable to criminalization. Black girls are 16 percent of girls in schools, but 42 percent of girls receiving corporal punishment, 42 percent of girls expelled with or without educational services, 45 percent of girls with at least one out-of-school suspension, 31 percent of girls referred to law enforcement, and 34 percent of girls arrested on campus. Too often, when people read these statistics, they ask, “What did these girls do?” when often, it’s not about what they did, but rather, the culture of discipline and punishment that leaves little room for error when one is black and female.

Black girls describe being labeled and suspended for being “disruptive” or “defiant” if they ask questions or otherwise engage in activities that adults consider affronts to their authority. Across the country, we see black girls being placed in handcuffs for having tantrums in kindergarten classrooms, thrown out of class for asking questions, sent home from school for arriving in shorts on a hot day, labeled as “truant” if they are being commercially sexually exploited, and labeled as “defiant” if they speak up in the face of what they [identify] to be injustice. We also see black girls criminalized (arrested on campus or referred to law enforcement) instead of engaged as children and teens whose mistakes could be addressed through non-punitive restorative approaches.

For girls, education is a critical protective factor against involvement with the juvenile and criminal legal systems. Our first priority should be keeping them in schools, not finding new ways to render them “delinquent.”

Posted in LAPD | 2 Comments »

Rodney King Roundup – 25 Years Later

March 4th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

SO HOW FAR HAVE WE COME SINCE 1991?

Thursday marked the 25th anniversary of the night LAPD officers beat Rodney King, fracturing his bones in 59 places and nearly killing him.

In an interview with the Marshall Project’s Bill Keller, Jill Leovy, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America, talks about what we have learned since the King beating and the LA riots.

Leovy discusses black-on-black violence and why law enforcement must give up the “broken windows” style of policing, the targeting specific geographic areas, and stop-and-search practices, and instead focus on “ensuring judicial resolution of serious crimes.” The majority of homicides of black men across the nation go unsolved. Leovy calls for diligent and efficient investigations of violent crime in black communities, and rigorous prosecution on behalf of victims.

“The real problem is that formal justice is materially lacking among populations that suffer high rates of violence,” says Leovy. “It’s missing, and it must be supplied.” And “dialogue,” “improved relations” between cops and communities of color, and youth programs won’t solve that underlying problem, she says. Here are some clips:

The unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County posted solve rates for homicide in the thirty-percent range through some of the most violent periods of the eighties and nineties. This translates to thousands of killers operating with impunity over decades in America’s poorest urban enclaves – dozens per square mile in South Los Angeles over just a few years. And that’s just a glimpse of the uncharted depths of the impunity problem, a statistical dark zone, where no good information exists on the frequency of non-lethal crimes, assaults and threats. The resulting lawlessness is a cruel form of deprivation afflicting tens of thousands of mostly poor, minority residents of America’s inner-cities, who get roughed up, robbed and raped with appalling frequency and live in daily fear that their sons might be killed. Its remedy must be to supply official justice, not just engage in “dialogue.” Violence is not a problem for coaches and pastors to solve; the state must do its job.

[SNIP]

What is so strange and interesting is that the political back and forth over policing has been so consistent, for so long, with the same durable themes and complaints sounded on both sides, not just since Rodney King and the millions of dollars spent on police reforms after the L.A. riots, but since long before, back to the 1960s, even the thirties and forties. Much has changed and yet nothing has. We are chasing each other around a box.

Self-styled progressives, especially, often talk as if legitimacy-building were merely a matter of creating “improved relations” between police officers and minority residents of urban neighborhoods. If police were just nicer, more sensitive, had a better understanding of civilians, or vice versa, things would improve. This is as hollow, in its way, as conservative talk of self-generated cultural and moral renewal in black neighborhoods. Legitimacy will not be built solely of community meetings, youth programs, skillful official propaganda, or artful expressions of empathy. They may have value, but as a cure for lawlessness I think they miss the core point, and in some cases risk deputizing civilians to assume conflict-resolution functions that rightly belong to the state. The state’s job is to intervene in conflicts – yes, even between people of the same color – and it must do so unequivocally and consistently.

So, police need to annoy and alienate fewer non-offenders, and arrest more serious, violent offenders. Pull back from broken-windows-style saturation, targeting patches of geography, and stop-and-search tactics, and concentrate on ensuring judicial resolution of serious crimes. Broken windows sprang from the premise that police were too focused on violence at the expense of quality-of-life crimes. But the premise is based on error. American criminal justice has never been very effective at investigating and prosecuting violence, especially in black communities; the reported statistics that claim otherwise are flawed. Violent crime in America today, as in generations past, begs for more systematically thorough and effective investigation, and clean, vigorous prosecution. A mother who grieves for a son lost to an unsolved homicide should not go years without hearing from police about new investigative efforts. A witness who testifies in spite of threats should not be abandoned to deal alone with the long-term consequences. Homicide units in high-crime areas should be solving nearly all murders, not half or less. The system will build legitimacy through its constitutionally constrained yet vigorous, response to people who are hurt, violated and bereaved by violence. The criminal justice system must deliver.

I’m not arguing for a hammer. Tensions between police power and civil liberties are real and involve high stakes; their resolution need not tilt toward law-enforcement. But those who claim the mantle of civil rights should not forget that crime victims — not just defendants — are disproportionately black, and that they suffer unspeakably. My newspaper just reported the killing of a one-year-old baby, Autumn Johnson, in Compton. The mother of this black child said: “I feel like my life is over. I wish it would have been me instead of her.” I don’t assert black crime victims are the only constituency that matters. But they deserve more somber, respectful consideration than they get, and they belong at the center of any serious discussion of police reform. Very often, these victims want and need their attackers to be caught and prosecuted. Omit their names, elide over their sufferings, relegate them to footnotes — as is the case in so many popular criminal-justice critiques today — and you lose the claim to humane advocacy.


BATONS, NOW RARELY USED BY POLICE, WERE ONCE (CERTAINLY IN THE RODNEY KING ERA) THE MOST USED WEAPON

Earlier this week, the LAPD released a comprehensive use-of-force report comparing 2015 stats with those of the previous four years. (We posted about the report—here.) According to the numbers, in 2015, LAPD officers used their batons 54 times—21% less often than during the period spanning 2011-2014—and a far cry from the 741 times cops used the weapon in 1990.

The LA Times’ Richard Winton tells the story of how the videotaped Rodney King beating led to fall of the baton as LAPD officers’ weapon of choice. Here’s how it opens:

When the video of Los Angeles police officers beating Rodney G. King shocked the world 25 years ago, the baton quickly became a symbol of law enforcement abuse.

The grainy black and white images showed a group of LAPD officers delivering 56 crunching blows to the African American motorist.

Back then, the 2-foot solid piece of aluminum was an essential tool in the police officer’s arsenal. In 1990, Los Angeles police officers used their batons 741 times during force incidents, more than any other weapon.

But the infamous video marked the beginning of the end for the baton’s reign. By 2015, LAPD officers used their batons just 54 times.

The baton offers a dramatic example of how police behavior has changed since the King beating. Authorities said that officers stopped using them for a variety of reasons: Changes in rules and training and the rise of other types of less-lethal weapons, as well as the lasting stigma from those grainy images.

“Back then, it was pulling out a baton and whacking people,” LAPD Deputy Chief Bill Murphy said. “After that video played that night, no one hardly ever used the baton. It was banished. It became a symbol.”


LESSER-KNOWN, FILMED PRECURSORS TO THE RODNEY KING VIDEO

The video of the Rodney King beating may have been the first viral video of police brutality—one that ushered in an era of many much-watched videos of law enforcement misconduct, and a flood of police body-worn (and dash) cams—but others came before it. When the King story originally broke, Time compiled a list of “America’s ugliest home videos,” caught on film by citizens armed with video cameras. Here’s a clip from Time’s updated version of that original story:

Laguna Beach, Calif. A neighbor across the street from an unruly party on June 17, 1990, recorded a harrowing 90 seconds of violence. Although a car partly blocked the view, an officer can be seen on camera swinging his leg in a kick at Kevin Dunbar, 24, a homeless man, while a number of other officers held him after he refused to obey an order to get down on the ground. The man, his face bleeding, was then lifted to his feet and led away to a squad car. A lawsuit against the Laguna Beach police department was filed last month, and the tapes are expected to be important evidence.

Chicago. Max’s Italian Beef Restaurant on the northwest side had a security camera in full view, but the two uniformed police rifling the cash register and prying open the safe last July were too busy to notice. The veteran officers allegedly lifted $7,000. They were indicted and await trial.


KING’S DAUGHTER LORA KING REMEMBERS HER FATHER

The LA Times has a wealth of King-related reading material. In one of the stories we didn’t want you to miss, the Times’ Angel Jennings speaks with Lora King about her father, his legacy, and the human behind the symbol—the dad, the addict, the troubled man still carrying the emotional scars of the beating and the guilt of the riots when he died in 2012. Here are some clips:

Lora King was 7 years old on March 3, 1991, when her dad, on parole and drunk, was infamously beaten in Lakeview Terrace.

Days later, King limped toward his daughter. His face was still swollen. One eye was protruding out of its socket. He talked from the side of his mouth like Popeye.

“I was terrified,” she recalled. “He looked like a monster, but he had a big smile on his face like it was no big deal.”

She had seen George Holliday’s grainy video of baton blows raining down on her father on the evening news. He told her he was fine.

Many years would go by before father and daughter truly reckoned with the emotional scars left by the beating.

“I purposely never brought it up because I always felt that he couldn’t escape it,” said Lora King, 32, an administrative assistant at a Glendale accounting firm. “I tried to stay in a happy place.”

She remembered a father who spent Fridays crisscrossing Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties to pick up his three daughters.

On the long ride, he would map out the plans for the weekend. Sometimes, it was skiing at Mt. Baldy, surfing in Venice, a day at Raging Waters. He also liked to go to places where famous people, including black celebrities and artists, would draw attention away from him.

[SNIP]

She stopped looking at her father through the eyes of a child years ago.

In the years after the beating, Rodney King continued to have trouble with the law. In 1993, he crashed into a wall while driving drunk. Two years later, he served 90 days in jail after being charged with a hit-and-run for knocking his wife down with his car. He was hooked on PCP.

Lora King saw a broken man who carried the guilt for the lives lost during the riot that broke out after a jury in Simi Valley cleared the LAPD officers charged in his beating.

He faced real demons, she said.

His frequent run-ins with the law after the beating continued to make him a divisive figure — and a less-than-perfect role model.

Posted in LAPD | 7 Comments »

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck Talks About Officer Involved Shootings, Community Relations, Changing Cop Culture…and More – by Joe Domanick

March 3rd, 2016 by witnessla

“MAYBE WE’LL BECOME AN EXAMPLE FOR AMERICA”

The LAPD’s Charlie Beck sits down to talk with The Crime Report’s Joe Domanick about policing in Los Angeles—and beyond.

by Joe Domanick

Now in his seventh year in office, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck has both built and expanded upon the reforms that were begun by his predecessor and mentor, William J. Bratton, who was LAPD chief from 2002-2009. In the process, Beck has become something of a rising star in the reformist wing of American policing—-in large part due to his innovative community policing work.

Last October he went to the White House with 130 other top law enforcement leaders to meet with President Barack Obama. The topic was the future of criminal justice reform, and Beck was chosen to speak with the president on the group’s behalf.

But Beck has also come under attack in Los Angeles for, among other things, his handling of controversial officer-involved shootings—which almost doubled in the city in 2015—prompting the local branch of Black Lives Matter to call for his resignation. In dealing with the media, Beck has been deliberate in not making the LAPD about himself—-a rare occurrence in a department ruled for more than 40 years by thin-skinned chiefs. As a result there have been few in-depth interviews with him.

In late January 2016, journalist and author Joe Domanick interviewed Chief Charlie Beck for over two hours.

Domanick has written two books about the department that Beck leads: To Protect and to Serve and Blue: The Los Angeles Police Department and the Battle to Redeem American Policing. (The latter is shortlisted for a 2016 LA Times Book Award). He is also the West Coast editor for The Crime Report.

Beck and Domanick’s free-wheeling discussion covers a host of issues facing the chief and other police executives nationwide, post-Ferguson.

The interview below with Chief Beck has been edited and condensed.


COMMUNITY POLICING

Among the most vital issues Domanick discussed with Chief Beck was community policing – considered the key to fundamental policing reform for the foreseeable future. Their discussion included how best to get “buy-in” for community policing from rank-and-file cops and their often change-phobic unions; and how to get them to leave behind the militaristic attitudes that informed the nation’s ‘wars’ on crime and drugs.

JOE DOMANICK: You use the term “community efficacy” when talking about community policing. What do you mean by that?

CHARLIE BECK: We have to recognize what a strong factor the police [can be] in building communities. It’s a huge responsibility to go into a community that has extreme issues with crime, lack of connection and cohesiveness, to [help solve those problems] and then give the people back their neighborhoods. I can flood any neighborhood with police officers and make it safe overnight. But what I want — and what I believe police can do — is build community [residents’] belief that they are in charge of their own destiny, and can make a difference in how and where they live. I believe that is the next revolution of policing.

JD: How do you do that?

BECK: Our bureau chiefs, area captains, senior lead officers are all involved – that’s about 300 people. They are responsible for [everything from] crime to ….issues like abandoned couches; and for everything in one piece of turf 24/7. And our area captains, through community policing, have total authority to affect quality of life and the way people feel about safety in their commands.

I’m proudest of our Community Safety Partnerships in our housing developments, where officers are assigned not to make arrests but to build community. We pioneered that, and it’s spreading throughout the city. Officers make a five-year commitment to stay there to make a difference in quality of life. And they are not judged on arrest numbers. They are judged on public safety overall, and on community cohesiveness.

We are going to start doing community surveys…Not only city-wide, but community surveys in the various divisions, so we can compare and contrast and measure progress. So [evaluation won’t just be based] on crime numbers, but on how people feel about us and public safety.


CHANGING POLICE CULTURE

At its heart, community policing requires building trust and active, transparent grassroots cooperative relationships with the neighborhood residents being policed. Each controversial police shooting, incident of police abuse, or even of rudeness has its cost in terms of undoing the good being done through community policing. In fact, according to Temple University criminologist Jerry Ratcliffe, it takes between four and 14 positive interactions with police to undo one negative interaction.

JD: Are there any changes, or any training you’ve been doing, to try to keep to the bare minimum officer-involved shootings and other police abuses?

BECK: The organization has changed its philosophy – its internal philosophy, not just its external stated philosophy – dramatically…This past summer we put our entire operations force [about 86 percent of the LAPD] through 10 hours of preservation-of-life training. The focus was to reinforce the necessity to preserve human life as our primary objective. We are following that up now with many hours of scenario-based training, about 32 for the entire force. We did the philosophy and now we are doing the application.

We now select people for success within the structure that we have created. I’ve been the chief almost seven years now. and Bratton was the chief for seven years before me. Literally. we have got two generations of cops. The vast majority of patrol cops were hired by me, [most of the rest by] Bratton. And [this structure is] all they have ever known.

JD: How has the police academy training changed in terms of your desires for community policing. As you know Bratton gave a lot of officers, including yourself, kind of carte blanche to start to think about these things.

BECK: We have changed the training in the last couple of years to be more all-inclusive. We don’t silo our topics. We include de-escalation of force training and communications skills and everything that they do. I have a civilian employee with a doctorate in education that runs my academy. She is absolutely focused on making sure that we do as inclusive a job as we can with our recruits.

We’ve also begun to bring the academy classes later in their careers—at their one, two-and-a-half and five-year points [of service] for more in-service training on the exact topics we’ve been talking about. We believe that is the most effective way for them to learn, because they already are in the same learning group, with shared interests and experiences.

They already have a pecking order and their social group is already done. In any kind of training, all those things have to get resolved before any learning occurs. So we are bringing them back and their academy cohorts for training on this exact topic. That is called the LAPD University. We are totally redoing the way that we look at in-service training in order to apply the right kinds of lessons at the right time in their career.


DISCIPLINE

JD: One of raps against you from some within the LAPD is that your discipline is inconsistent. Do they have a point?

BECK: Sometimes folks forget discipline is not solely based on the act. There are termination offenses no matter what kind of record you have. But discipline is certainly influenced by an officer’s history. A person who makes a mistake over and over is going to receive much harsher discipline than somebody who makes it for the first time.

JD: What do you mean when you talk about a ‘mistake of the heart’ and a ‘mistake of the head’?

BECK: A mistake of the heart is malignant. Doing something with evil intent is very different than doing something because you made a poor decision with good intentions. A mistake of the heart is planting dope on somebody. A mistake of the head is miscounting narcotics when you book, it and [us] finding out that [that the total is wrong.] Mistakes of the heart, I can’t tolerate. Through training and reinforcement a lot of the mistakes of the head can be rectified so they won’t reoccur.

JD: Aren’t there are some ‘mistakes of the head’ that need to be strongly disciplined as an example to other officers?

BECK: I do fire people for mistakes of the head. Drinking and driving is a mistake of the head. It is not because you have a malignant heart. I fire people for that to set an example. Not the first time but certainly the second time.


PROSECUTING OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTINGS

JD: In 2015, there were a number of LAPD shootings of the kind where you sit up on your TV couch and say, “Wow! I can’t believe they just shot that guy.”

Recently you’ve sent to the D.A. the case of the fatal LAPD shooting of Brendon Glenn [a young, unarmed black man who was shot in the back in Venice, Ca.] with a recommendation to prosecute the officer. How does that differ from some of the other controversial LAPD officer-involved shootings? Is it a rare occurrence in this or any city for an officer to get referred for an indictment in a shooting incident?

BECK: First of all, I have done this many times in other instances. I have [recommended] prosecuting police officers for murder and everything below that, as [an Internal Affairs] detective and as chief, I’ve aggressively prosecuted police officers. Usually that’s not for actions conducted while on duty, (but) sometimes it is. Recently we had a case prosecuted where an officer kicked somebody unnecessarily. That was captured on video. It didn’t result in a death. I don’t shy from that. I don’t like prosecuting cops but that doesn’t stop me from doing it.

JD: Nevertheless, the LAPD has a high rate of officer-involved shootings, compared to other police agencies.

BECK: We make many, many contacts, and have maybe the most gang violence. There are consequences to that. When you have the most interactions and the most radio calls and the most arrests, you are going to have the most opportunities for [officer-involved] shootings. You can’t compare us to an agency half our size and say ‘why do you have more shootings?’ Of course we have more shootings. We have more of everything.

Then the other piece is we have a geographic or demographic that is more violent than others then police are going to come in contact with that violence. And you are going to have an increase in police use of force.

JD: Why do officer-involved shootings take so long to adjudicate? One just took 13 months. Your critics say you’re just taking your time until public outrage has settled and the incident is off everybody’s mind.

BECK: Should we adjudicate it before the autopsy is done? Autopsies take three to four months. Should we adjudicate them before all the witnesses’ statements and everything else is done? We do homicide level investigations on every one of these [officer involved shootings]. Then after the investigations, the [LAPD] Inspector General looks at them, [the department’s] Use-of-Force board and the Chief of Police look at them, and then the police commission has to rule on them. And all of that takes time. They have to review 48 shootings [in 2015] and multiple other uses of force.

Which part of this scenario do I skip? It was designed by the [1991 Warren] Christopher Commission and the [U.S Justice Department’s] consent decree, in response to what people saw as a department that was [out of] control. And we follow it scrupulously.

JD: Does the Los Angeles District Attorney ever investigate LAPD officers without the recommendation of the department first?

BECK: We present every officer-involved shooting to the DA for review. Every one of ‘em. Nobody else does that. No matter how good they are. They all go to the DA for review. And the DA responds as a roll out tape that goes to every officer involved shooting scene at the time it occurs and has for years.

JD: Before, if the LAPD didn’t send it over to them, they didn’t do any investigation. It’s not that way anymore?

BECK: No. We send every one of them over there, and they are invited – we have a DA assigned to each one of the investigations.

JD: So if the DA wanted to, she could initiate her own investigation—after you send it over—and indict, even though the department is not asking for the indictment?

BECK: Absolutely.


BLACK-ON-BLACK VIOLENCE

JD: If I were a police chief I would talk about violence among poor African-American young men every day, and why nothing is being done except more repression and mass incarceration, in terms of long-term investment to remedy the situation.

BECK: You’re absolutely correct. A small minority of the population commit— and are victims of—the vast majority of crime. Much of that is tied to circumstances of birth and race and many other things. [We’re] about changing that dynamic. It’s the hardest thing to do in policing. But if you create a sense of social efficacy and a belief that a community is in charge of its own destiny you can reduce violence and crime.

I always struggle with how hard I am going to lean on the fact that 42 percent of our homicide victims are African Americans, [whose population is less than 9 percent of Los Angeles]; and 40 percent of the suspects arrested for homicide were African American. [But] just railing on why nobody will fix the problems in [our] poor communities— I don’t know how much that will get me. I think everybody understands [the causes].

JD: But people don’t understand that. It’s been hard for many, many white people to grasp.

BECK: Well, it’s very true [about the circumstances]. We have to have the conversation about what is killing our youth – because that is what this is—our youth. We all have to recognize that some of our communities are much more prone to violence than others. And we’ve got to find a way to fix that.

But everybody [in a department] has to pull together. And [even then] everything we do can be unwound by one Neanderthal [cop] that treats people badly in the wrong situation.

JD: Well, I have come to understand that you’ve had to bring the troops along. And police unions are a powerfully resistant political force.

BECK: Of course. That’s why I get frustrated with my union when they go hard right on some of these issues. I need their members to believe in [what we’re trying to do], because that’s how we’ll get better, and maybe we’ll become an example for America. Maybe.


STOP & FRISK

JD: Is your department still doing roughly the same [high] amount of stop and frisks?

BECK: Well, I hate that term, of course. Our detentions are reduced, our overall arrests have been part of a continuing decline. A lot of that is due to a de-emphasis through the courts and through law and even internally [due to a de-emphasis] towards narcotics arrests and some other lower-level types of arrests that have caused those numbers to go down. Our stops have declined on a similar level, but we still make a lot of stops. There are still multiple hundreds of thousands of year.

JD: In our previous discussion for this interview you were talking about how “explanation” in policing–stops goes a long way towards easing the tension during a stop. Your ability to articulate why you stopped somebody has a lot to do with how people feel about it.

BECK: One of the great things about the body cameras and the in car video is that supervisors are able to review that [interaction] period, and see how effective their officers are at it, and make adjustments. One of the reasons that we look at biased policing complaints so exhaustively is because I think that many of them are an exact symptom of this – of a lack of explanation.

JD: What do you want to get done during the remaining three years of your term?

BECK: I want to get back on track with crime, be the model in building community trust, and get people to have faith in this police department to the extent that the national conversation [about how police abuse] may have damaged it.

JD: In terms of building community trust, how far along do you think the department currently is?

BECK: I believe our police officers generally make excellent decisions on stopping the right people in the right circumstance. Do I put inexperienced people out there? Do I fish with a net? No. We try to be as targeted as possible. Fishing with a net is a very bad way to police. You may catch a lot of fish, but you certainly don’t get the right kind.


BODY AND DASHBOARD CAMERAS

In 2015, Chief Beck implemented a body and dashboard camera policy that allows officers to see the camera videos before they make their use-of-force reports, but keeps the footage under wraps for almost everyone else. That policy pacified the Police Protective League, but it left civil libertarians and other critics angry and disillusioned.

JD: How difficult was it for you to pull all the interested parties together and come up with your plan?

BECK: It was difficult. Nobody is completely is satisfied with this. Nobody. The ACLU, the Police Protective League [the LAPD Union], the city council and I are all not completely satisfied. But it’s a workable compromise that allows police accountability and officer’s confidence in a tool that is being used to not only monitor them but also support their work.

You’ve got a balance – I can make a system that’s pure monitoring of officers, or a system that’s pure prosecution, but we want something that [the officers] will use; that allows for accountability; and will improve behavior on both sides of the camera and change the way cops perceive their jobs. All of us are guilty of not being our best at all times. Cameras increase the likelihood that everybody will perform to their optimum capability.

JD: Two issues with the plan: the public doesn’t get to see the videos of these controversial shootings; and the officers are allowed to view the video before they make their statement. Both of these issues seem problematic.

BECK: Representatives of the public are allowed to see the videos. The Police Commission, the District Attorney, City Attorney and the [LAPD] Inspector General all have full access to these videos. A video is a form of evidence, like a written statement, an oral recording, a photograph or an autopsy. To release it out of context doesn’t do justice to the investigation. These are raw videos, capturing a knot hole of an incident and not the totality of the circumstances. What we are looking for is not absolute transparency. It’s accountability.

As for an officer being allowed to view the video before making a statement, shouldn’t an officer when transcribing his report be able to review it, so that [he or she] can make their most accurate statement based on a report he created?

JD: Or critics might suggest they can make a statement that’s most favorable to them when based on the video.

BECK: The evidence [the video] is what the evidence is. You can’t change it by your statement. If you have acted inappropriately or improperly the evidence in the video will generally show that. We’re trying to create a tool that officers will use and embrace and adds a level of accountability. So there are compromises made. The addition of video is no different than the many other pieces of evidence that officers are allowed to view before making their statements. We do a walk thru so they can see the scene [of the incident].

Being involved in a shooting is very traumatic. We are trying to get their best recollection. If the investigators decide that is not the best way to do it than we don’t. In the Venice shooting (of Brendon Glenn), the officer involved] hasn’t seen that tape, because I thought it was a criminal act [when I viewed it.]


THE HOMELESS

Shortly after our interview the City and County of Los Angeles announced plans to dramatically increase funding and housing for LA homeless of about 47,000 – the largest in the nation.

JD: Let’s talk about the huge homeless problem in the city of Los Angeles, and how it’s essentially been left to the LAPD to deal with for decades.

BECK: The best thing about this year is that finally other people are [also] taking responsibility for it. [Mayor] Eric Garcetti has done a phenomenal job of bringing people together. . .[LA’s] government is so decentralized and power is so dispersed. . .that it’s very difficult to get things done without building a consensus. But he’s brought [Los Angeles] county [towards reform] along and the County [controls] all the mental health services and the majority of the money for housing and other services.

We’ve been locked in a spiral going the wrong way on this. We had to claim a 14 percent increase in the [number] of homelessness living on the street last year. Visually, it looks like double that, and that’s a huge crime issue for us. I mean our number one division in crime increase this year was Central [Division, in Downtown LA., including skid row]. And damn near all of that is homeless on homeless crime.

JD: So what’s the new plan?

BECK: Creating more homeless housing and incentives for people to want to live in that housing. We have vacant beds every night [in skid-row facilities]. So people need to be willing to people willing to go to [homeless housing]. And the department [has been developing] mental health teams – ‘smart teams’ of a mental health provider and a police officer that respond to not only calls about the mentally ill but also do case work on the homeless and mentally ill.

JD: How many officers are working on that?

BECK: I am adding 32 and I had 40. That’s a big commitment. And the Department of Mental Health has agreed to add 30 more [of their personnel]. We are going to be handle almost 70 percent of our mental health calls with those teams. . .We can fix this problem with enough energy, commitment and funding. It’s not fixed now, but things are lining up and maybe we can make some progress.


A CHIEF’S MANAGMENT STYLE

JD: LA has a long history of combative LAPD chiefs like Ed Davis, Daryl Gates and Bernard Parks who warred with the media and other critics, and made the LAPD all about themselves. Even Bill Bratton, who courted the press and public, made the department about ‘Bill Bratton the Reformer.’ You on the other hand, have kept a remarkably low profile. Why?

BECK: The chief of police should not be everybody’s focus of interest.. My ideal scenario is having a police department that [the public] believes in more than they believe in the chief. I have got a finite time [in office], a goodbye date. I have to create an organization that will continue [to get better]. We made huge progress in Bratton’s administration and hopefully in mine; I want that to [pass that on] to the next chief.



Joe Domanick is West Coast bureau chief of The Crime Report, and Associate Director of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at John Jay College in NYC. He is the author of “Blue: The Los Angeles Police Department and the Battle to Redeem American Policing.”.

Joe welcomes your comments

This story is being crossposted with the permission of The Crime Report.


Photo of Charlie Beck courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Posted in Charlie Beck, LAPD | 2 Comments »

LAPD Use-of-Force Report…”Fight Club” SFSD Deputies Indicted…and Tribal Juvenile Justice

March 2nd, 2016 by Taylor Walker

LAPD DELIVERS NEW FIVE-YEAR USE-OF-FORCE COMPARISON REPORT TO COMMISSION

In 2015, LAPD officers shot at 15 mentally ill people—a number triple that of the previous year, according to a yearly use-of-force report presented to the police commission on Tuesday.

The report compares five years of use of force data from 2011 to 2015, and “represents the LAPD’s steadfast commitment to providing detailed information on the Department’s uses of force,” said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck. “This unprecedented analysis and amount of information will help the LAPD continuously improve our efforts to preserve life and protect the community.”

Of the 1,503,758 times LAPD officers had contact with the public, .13% resulted in a use-of-force, and .003% led to an officer-involved shooting.

Out of the 48 total officer-involved shootings in 2015, 21 suspects (44%) were killed by the gunfire. (This rate is similar to that of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, which recorded 41% of officer-involved shootings as having resulted in the death of a suspect.) Twelve of the shootings were found to be suicide-by-cop situations. Of those shot at by law enforcement, 48% were Latino, 25% were black, 15% were white, and 4% were Asian/Pacific Islander.

Of the 38 times LAPD cops shot at suspects, 33 (or 87%) of those times, the individuals were armed. And 19 (58%) of those suspects were armed with a firearm. Three times, officers shot people they perceived to have a firearm, but were actually unarmed. The other two times cops shot unarmed suspects, the individuals had caused serious bodily injury to themselves or others.

LAPD use of tasers and beanbag guns increased 24% and 31%, respectively, over the 2014 rates. Officers’ use of strikes, kicks, and punches, and baton strikes decreased 35% and 21% in 2015 in comparison to the period between 2011 and 2014.


THREE SAN FRANCISCO DEPUTIES INDICTED FOR ORGANIZED INMATE FIGHTS

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón announced charges against three San Francisco deputies accused of forcing jail inmates to brawl in gladiator-style fights.

The alleged ringleader, 42-year-old former Deputy Scott Neu also reportedly made inmates gamble for food, clean clothes, and bedding. One of the brawling inmates said Neu also forced him to do 200 push-ups in an hour.

Neu was charged with 17 counts carrying up to 10 years total in state prison: four felony counts of assault under the color of authority, four felony counts of making threats, five misdemeanor counts of inflicting cruel and unusual punishment, and four misdemeanor counts of inhumanity to a prisoner.

The two other deputies involved in the inmate fight club are still employed by the SF Sheriff’s Dept., and have been reassigned to positions with no inmate contact. Deputy Eugene Jones, 45, faces five criminal counts, and Deputy Clifford Chiba—who is accused of witnessing Neu and Jones forcing inmates to fight, and not making any attempt to stop them—faces three.

“Subjecting inmates who are in our care and custody to degrading and inhumane treatment makes a mockery of our criminal justice system and undermines any efforts toward rehabilitation,” Gascón said at a press conference.

San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs’ Association President Eugene Cerbone accused Gascón of “disrupting people’s lives on the words of criminals. You’re disrupting people’s lives, people with families, because a drug dealer said he had to do push-ups.”

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Vivian Ho has the story. Here’s a clip:

Gascón and Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who brought the allegations to light in March 2015, said they believed the jail fights exposed a culture in the Sheriff’s Department in which bad actors were protected out of a sense of loyalty.

The deputies’ conduct had been under investigation by local and federal authorities since two inmates, Ricardo Palikiko Garcia and Stanley Harris, came forward to say deputies — Neu in particular — had threatened them with violence or withheld food in order to force them to engage in fights for deputies to bet on.

Garcia and Harris said the deputies had told them that “anything goes” in the fights, but instructed them not to leave marks on the face. If they required medical attention, they were to lie and say they fell off a bunk, the inmates said.

Prosecutors charged Neu, Jones and Chiba for their alleged roles in two staged fights between the two inmates that took place on March 5 and 6 in County Jail No. 4 at 850 Bryant St., according to court documents. Neu allegedly told the inmates that he would transfer them to another jail with fewer privileges if they didn’t fight each other.

Garcia, who was in custody on drug and gun possession charges but has since been released, is significantly smaller than Harris. He said the first fight had resulted in injuries to his ribs that were so painful he could not sleep on his side. Chiba was at this fight, court documents state.

Jones and Neu allegedly forced Garcia and Harris to fight again the next day, and Neu egged them on, according to court documents. The inmates said they were afraid Neu would hurt them if they refused.

“They were friends,” Adachi said Tuesday. “They did not want to fight each other, but were being forced to do this and threatened that if they did not fight and did not exhibit a real fight, there would be real consequences. These two individuals were terrified when they came to us.”


NEW FEDERAL GUIDELINES FOR TRAUMA-INFORMED JUVENILE JUSTICE FOR NATIVE AMERICANS

Tribal courts should utilize treatment, foster care, and counseling, rather than fines and incarceration for Native American kids, according to draft federal guidelines released Monday.

The new guidelines replace a 30-year-old, outdated juvenile code. The updated code would considerably limit the incarceration of Native American kids, favoring of tribal community alternatives, and emphasize kids’ right to representation at all stages of juvenile court proceedings, among other changes.

Children growing up in tribal communities experience violence at a rate higher than any other race, according to a 2014 Justice Department report. Native American kids are also five times more likely than the general population to have four or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). (Kids with four ACEs have a much higher likelihood of having emotional and physical health issues, among other serious negative outcomes.) Native American youth also face disparities in probation, detention, and residential facilities.

The draft guidelines were announced by the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Robert Listenbee, Assistant Secretary of the Dept. of the Interior’s Indian Affairs, Lawrence S. Roberts, and the and the head of the Dept. of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Kana Enomoto.

“OJJDP and the Bureau of Indian Affairs share a commitment to work with tribal communities as they reform their juvenile justice systems,” said Listenbee. “We support a developmental and trauma-informed approach to reform that better meets the needs of tribal youth at risk or involved in the juvenile justice system. The updated Code reflects such an approach.”

Posted in LAPD | 4 Comments »

Paying for Lawsuits Against the LAPD, Crisis Centers, Parole for Juvie Crimes, and Realignment Savings

January 21st, 2016 by Taylor Walker

TAKING A CLOSER LOOK AT THE CITY OF LA’S $24 MILLION FALSE CONVICTION SETTLEMENTS

On Tuesday, the LA City Council approved $24.3 million in settlements to two men, Kash Delano Register and Bruce Lisker, who were wrongfully convicted of murder and spent decades in prison.

On Wednesday’s episode of KCRW’s Which Way LA?, the LA Times’ Matt Lait and LA Police Commission Vice President Steve Soboroff talked with host Warren Olney about the city’s decision to agree to a big-bucks settlement based on the likelihood that going to court would cost more than the $24 million.

Prosecutors dropped charges against Register, who was convicted of killing a man at age 18 in 1979, after his lawyers accused the prosecution of withholding exculpatory evidence from the defense, and using false testimony. Lisker’s conviction for his mother’s 1983 murder was overturned after a judge found that the prosecution had presented false testimony.

Lait pointed out that Register’s lawyers were originally demanding $40 million to settle, and Lisker’s lawyers were demanding around $22 million. Through federal mediators, those sums were brought down to approximately $16.7 and $7.6 million respectively.

When asked if he thought the City Council made the correct call by settling, Soboroff said, “I believe [the City Council] did the right thing. They were travesties. They happened 37 and 33 years ago. It was a different world then in Los Angeles policing than it is now.”

Soboroff asserted that today’s law enforcement officers are not making such egregious errors in policing as in Register and Lisker’s cases. “This is not going to happen again,” Soboroff said. “This is not like the Netflix “Making a Murderer” that’s been going on recently. That is not what our police department is about.”

The commission president said that while officers make mistakes, the LAPD had established a number of protections since Register and Lisker’s convictions. “We have a system which has national recognition as having safeguards, having citizen oversight, having independent inspector generals, having all kinds of intra- and inter-department safeties…”

The Times’ Lait was not so convinced. “You see time and again throughout the country, DNA evidence exonerating people… Even though there’s no DNA evidence in this case, Mr. Register’s case dealt with eyewitness identifications. And those can be faulty. So there’s always the risk.”


LA COUNTY TURNING TO CRISIS CENTERS FOR MENTAL HEALTH EMERGENCIES

The LA Times’ Abby Sewell takes a look inside Los Angeles’ crisis centers, as the county shifts toward a reliance on LA’s five centers, rather than jails or hospitals, for taking care of a person in the middle of a mental health emergency.

These centers, the newest of which opened in Culver City last month, serve as places law enforcement officers can bring people in crisis. Often, police officers have to choose between waiting 6-8 hours to drop someone in crisis off at hospital emergency room, or booking the person on a minor charge and getting back to work within an hour.

Here’s a clip from Sewell’s story:

Until recently, Los Angeles police were reluctant to take patients directly to the urgent care centers because, unlike hospital emergency rooms, the centers don’t take people with serious medical issues or who are extremely drunk or aggressive.

But after meeting with Exodus staff over the summer to clarify the guidelines, police have begun taking more patients to the centers rather than emergency rooms. In December 2014, law enforcement officers took 209 patients to L.A. County-USC Medical Center and 107 to the Exodus center across the street. In August, officers took 196 patients to the hospital and 268 to the urgent care center. LAPD officers who had been frustrated at the time they spent waiting to hand off patients to medical staff at the overcrowded county emergency rooms said the turnaround time is much quicker at the urgent care centers.

“The times I’ve been there, it’s been 15 minutes as opposed to two hours at the ER,” said Lt. Brian Bixler of the Los Angeles Police Department’s specialized mental health team.

The turn to urgent care centers has also helped to alleviate overcrowding at the county hospitals’ psychiatric emergency departments and in the regular emergency rooms. The average morning patient count for the three county psychiatric emergency rooms was about 40 in November, down from 60 a year earlier.

Mark Ghaly, director of community programs for the county’s Department of Health Services, which runs the hospitals, said a “significant amount” of the reduction in crowding can be attributed to the increased use of urgent care centers…

But it can be a challenge to find a bed in a psychiatric facility that provides long-term care. One patient waited a week at an urgent care center — in violation of rules — before an inpatient bed was found.

Ghaly said the expansion of urgent care centers will be a boon to hospitals, but needs to come with “a commensurate increase” in inpatient beds and community-based resources so patients have somewhere to go upon release.


DEFINING CALIFORNIA JUVENILE OFFENDERS’ SECOND CHANCE AT PAROLE

On Wednesday, a California appeals court ruled that, for inmates who were sentenced to life-without-parole for juvenile crimes, judges must take into consideration evidence of prisoners’ rehabilitation when deciding parole eligibility.

In 2014, the CA Supreme Court ruled that judges must take a second look at juvenile life-without-parole sentences, but the ruling did not specify what kind of evidence, if any, a prisoner could present for the second chance at parole.

The Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles overturned a judge’s decision to disregard evidence that Elizabeth Lozano, who killed another teenager when she was 16-years-old, had turned her life around in prison.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Bob Egelko has more on appeals court’s decision. Here’s a clip:

In the state’s first appellate ruling on the issue, the court said the U.S. and California Supreme Court decisions had emphasized that juveniles were different from adults in maturity and responsibility, and that judges must consider all evidence relating to the “distinctive attributes of youth” before imposing harsh sentences.

“All relevant evidence, in our view, includes what Lozano asserts is 15 years of rehabilitation in prison,” Justice Sandy Kriegler said last Thursday in a 3-0 ruling ordering a new hearing.

Lozano, a 16-year-old member of a Los Angeles street gang, fatally shot Tayde Vasquez and took her jewelry in January 1992 after hearing that the girl had accused her of plotting with members of a rival gang. She was tried and sentenced as an adult in 1996, violated prison rules repeatedly for four years, and was convicted of a drug crime. But she has been discipline-free since then and has apparently turned her life around, the court said.

Lozano earned a high school diploma and a two-year college degree in prison, was elected to an inmate council that works with prison administrators, took part in an outreach program to help juveniles stay crime-free, and has won praise from a former prison warden and numerous staff members, the court said.

When she tried to present that information to the judge who was ordered to reconsider her sentence, prosecutors objected. They argued that evidence of good behavior in prison can be presented only at a separate hearing, authorized by a recent state law, that juveniles sentenced to life without parole can request after 15 years in prison.


CA PRISON OFFICIALS ANSWER CALLS FOR ACCOUNTABILITY ON BILLIONS IN ABSENT REALIGNMENT SAVINGS

Last week, WLA pointed to an LA Times editorial taking a closer look at why, despite a promised pile of savings from California’s realignment strategy and Proposition 47, the state’s prison budget has only risen over the last four years.

In response to calls for accountability from CA lawmakers, on Wednesday, prison officials released a long-term corrections plan that says the state would have had to spend $1.3 billion more, if not for the inmate population reductions from realignment and Prop. 47. Corrections officials also say that the current spending is necessary to keep the inmate population below a level ordered by a panel of federal judges, and that money is being spent on private prisons, while dilapidated and costly prisons have not been replaced.

The Associated Press’ Don Thompson has more on the issue. Here’s a clip:

Federal judges required the state to reduce the headcount in the state’s 34 main adult prisons more than officials wished, according to the revised long-term plan Brown’s administration released Wednesday at the insistence of state lawmakers.

That led to more expensive private prison beds in California and other states and ended plans to close a dilapidated state lockup as the state scrambled to maintain enough beds, according to the new plan.

But the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation now houses about 35,000 fewer inmates than it did at its peak in 2006, leading liberal and conservative advocacy groups and a state lawmaker to question why the savings never materialized.

“The money’s going up, and the population’s going down,” said Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who heads the Senate Public Safety Committee and the budget committee that oversees corrections spending. “When do you start seeing the long-term savings?”

The department says its budget would have been $1.3 billion higher this year without the changes the state has made in the last four years.

The revised plan says the current level of spending is needed to hold the inmate headcount below the level set by federal judges. Brown’s budget includes more than $120 million in stop-gap population control measures, including fixing up the rundown California Rehabilitation Center at Norco and keeping 4,900 inmates in private lockups past this year’s legislative deadline. The revised corrections plan also relies in part on space for nearly 2,400 inmates in three new cell houses built at existing prisons.

Posted in LAPD | No Comments »

Populating the LASD Oversight Commission….LAPD Chief Recommends Charges in Officer-Involved Shooting….and More

January 12th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

LA COUNTY SUPES TO DISCUSS WHO SHOULD SIT ON AN LASD CIVILIAN OVERSIGHT PANEL

On Tuesday, the LA County Board of Supervisors are expected to discuss the makeup of a civilian commission to oversee the LA County Sheriff’s Department.

In previous talks about the oversight commission, one important topic of discussion has been whether retired sworn personnel could serve as commission members, or whether that would create a conflict of interest.

Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis have submitted a motion to only allow former LASD personnel to serve on the nine-member commission after they had been disconnected from the department for one year.

Mark Anthony Johnson of Dignity and Power Now argues ex-deputies should not serve on the board at all. Johnson says that even former personnel like Bob Olmsted, who testified about corruption and misconduct within the department to the Citizens Commission on Jail Violence, could serve as advisors to the commission but not as commissioners, arguing that ex-cops on the commission could potentially harm the group’s credibility.

KPCC’s Frank Stoltze has more on the issue. Here’s a clip:

“Fundamentally, we don’t think law enforcement should be policing law enforcement,” said Mark-Anthony Johnson of Dignity and Power Now, a group that formed to protest deputy-on-inmate violence in the jails and pushed for the new commission.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Johnson said. “The community needs to know that they can go to a place where the people they are talking to have not been entrenched in a practice of law enforcement – one that protects law enforcement.”

But L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell and the powerful Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs argue excluding former deputies from eligibility would be unfair and also exclude people who know the inner workings of the department.

Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis agree — and have introduced a motion that would allow former deputies to serve on the commission after a one-year period away from the department. They argue an ex-cop’s perspective could be valuable on a panel charged with looking for problems at the Sheriff’s Department.

“There is no question that it could have a lot of value depending on who the person is,” said Ridley-Thomas. He points to the late Jesse Brewer, a former LAPD assistant chief who became a strong voice for reform on the city’s civilian police commission in the 1990s.

“In my view he was one of the best commissioners to ever serve,” said Ridley-Thomas.

Johnson agrees that former officers can be valuable, citing ex-Sheriff’s Commander Bob Olmsted. He was one of the few sheriff’s officials to testify about problems at the department at the Citizens Commission on Jail Violence.


FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, LAPD CHIEF CHARLIE BECK RECOMMENDS CHARGING OFFICER IN FATAL SHOOTING

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck has recommended that the LA County District Attorney’s Office charge police officer Clifford Proctor in the fatal shooting of Brendon Glenn, an unarmed homeless man in Venice.

Video and other evidence from the May shooting led police investigators to determine that during an altercation, Proctor shot 29-year-old Glenn twice in the back while Glenn was lying on his stomach on the ground.

It’s now up to LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey as to whether Proctor will be charged. This is the first time Chief Beck has ever recommended charges for an on-duty fatal shooting by an officer.

ABC7 has the story. Here’s a clip:

Proctor’s attorney said the officer saw Glenn reaching for his partner’s gun. However, Beck said that after reviewing video, witness accounts and other evidence, investigators determined Glenn was not trying to take either Proctor’s gun or his partner’s weapon at the time of the shooting.

Glenn was among 21 people fatally shot by Los Angeles police in 2015, when the overall number of officer-involved shootings in the nation’s second-largest city increased by 52 percent.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement that he hopes Beck’s recommendation is “considered with the utmost gravity.”

“As the District Attorney reviews this case, my hope is that Chief Beck’s recommendation is considered with the utmost gravity. No one is above the law, and whenever use-of-force crosses the line, it is our obligation to make sure that principle is upheld,” he said.

The police union, however blasted Beck.

“Chief Beck should never be involved in this,” said Craig Lally of the Los Angeles Police Protective League. “He should just hand over the investigation and let the people that are actually going to either file or prosecute this case – with the evidence at hand – let them decide.”

Meanwhile, there was rare praise for Beck from civil rights activists.

“It is so unprecedented,” said Earl Ofari Hutchinson of the L.A. Urban Policy Roundtable. “When in living memory can you remember a local police chief saying ‘an officer messed up. An officer abused his authority.’”


WINNING A CONVICTION AGAINST AN OFFICER IN A FATAL USE OF FORCE CASE IS DIFFICULT, TO SAY THE LEAST

Between 2005-2015, there was only one officer charged with murder or manslaughter for an on-duty fatal use of force. While the number of officers charged in the deaths of civilians has risen across the nation, it is still very difficult to convict an officer in an on-duty shooting, point out the LA Times’ Jack Leonard and James Queally, who have compiled a list of recent charges against California officers and their outcomes. Here’s a clip:

Despite California’s sheer size, officers rarely face charges for on-duty shootings, according to Phillip M. Stinson, an associate professor of criminal justice at Bowling Green State in Ohio who is tracking murder or manslaughter charges against officers nationwide.

From 2005-15, only one California officer was charged with murder or manslaughter in connection with an on-duty shooting, said Stinson. Nationally, 65 officers were charged with murder or manslaughter in connection with their role in on-duty shootings in that time frame, Stinson said.

Last year saw a noticeable spike in the frequency of such serious charges across the country, he said.

Eighteen officers were charged in 2015 with murder or manslaughter for an on-duty shooting, according to Stinson’s data. From 2011-14, just 16 officers faced similar charges.

Stinson said it’s too early to tell if there is a link between increased national scrutiny of police actions and an uptick in the number of murder or manslaughter charges filed against officers.

California prosecutors who have brought such cases in the last few decades have sometimes struggled to win convictions.


NO MORE CONTROVERSIAL STRIP SEARCHES FOR VISITORS TO CA PRISONS

Thanks to a change in state law, visitors at California prisons will no longer be subjected to strip searches.

Under the new regulations, visitors will now incur a year’s worth of heightened scrutiny if drug sniffing dogs or scanners detect illegal substances. And the penalties for those who refuse a clothed pat-down after being flagged by dog or machine will face increasing penalty levels for each refusal.

The Associated Press has the story.

It’s the first time visitors will be scrutinized by dogs that previously have been used to search inmates, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Dana Simas said Monday.

Visitors who are spotlighted by a dog or ion scanner but refuse clothed searches face an increasing range of penalties under the revised regulations the department proposed on Friday and will take effect after a public comment period.

A first refusal means no visit that day. A second refusal could bring a loss of visiting privileges for 30 days, while a third could mean no visits for a year. A fourth refusal in a year could result in the permanent revocation of visiting privileges.

The progressive penalties will encourage visitors to submit to the searches, the department said in outlining the new regulations.

Even if a visitor submits to a clothed search and no drugs or other contraband is found, the visitor can’t have physical contact with an inmate during that day’s visit and must go through the process again the next time he or she visits an inmate within the next 12 months.

Posted in Charlie Beck, LA County Board of Supervisors, LAPD, LASD | 112 Comments »

College Track Comes to Watts, “Ghost Suspensions,” and Use-of-Force

November 13th, 2015 by Taylor Walker

WATTS GETS A NEW PROGRAM TO HELP TEENS GO TO (AND GRADUATE) COLLEGE

On Thursday, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilmember Joe Busciano, education groups, students, and supporters, gathered at Jordan High School to celebrate the launch of an important new program in Watts called “College Track.”

Garcetti and Busciano were joined by Green Dot, the Partnership for LA Schools, Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, the Emerson Collective, and the Wasserman Foundation, with whom College Track has partnered to bring crucial resources and services to Watts students.

College Track, which has already been successfully implemented in other areas, is an innovative program to help kids in underserved communities attend and graduate college. The 10-year program supports kids from 9th grade through completion of their college degree.

The program provides students with academic support, leadership training, scholarships, help with housing, and college and financial advice.

Through College Track, 93% of the 2,400 participating students were accepted into a four-year college, and those kids had a graduation rate 2.5 times that of low income students nationally.

(Here’s a sweet video of a young College Track participant named Alex, who wants to major in computer science at Boston College, speaking at the event.)


“GHOST SUSPENSIONS” TAKE THE PLACE OF PROHIBITED SUSPENSIONS FOR “WILLFUL DEFIANCE” IN LA SCHOOLS

In 2013, Los Angeles banned suspensions for “willful defiance,” a broad term that could be slapped onto anything from talking back in class, to not having the right materials for an assignment, to a dress code violation. Suspension rates have plummeted in Los Angeles and across California as school districts have been moving away from harsh school discipline practices toward more healing restorative justice practices. The Los Angeles Unified School District also announced last year that it would stop issuing citations to students for youthful offenses like truancy, possession of alcohol or marijuana, and fighting, in an effort to stop the flow of students into the juvenile justice system. But the transition to smarter school discipline has not been an easy one.

Last week, a story from the LA Times’ Teresa Watanabe and Howard Blume revealed that some LAUSD teachers said that lack of financial resources had resulted in half-implemented restorative justice policies, leaving teachers, no longer able to suspend students for “willful defiance,” without proper tools to handle unruly classrooms.

And those massively reduced suspension rates may not be as impressive as they seem, thanks to informal “ghost suspensions.” Some advocates say schools are lowering suspension rates by sending kids home with their parents or putting them in a separate classroom all day without counting them as out-of-school suspensions.

The Chronicle of Social Change’s Nadra Nittle has more on the issue. Here’s a clip:

As the push for restorative justice grows nationwide, LAUSD is not only citing fewer students for minor infractions but suspending fewer also. In May 2013, the school board passed the School Climate Bill of Rights to ban suspensions for willful defiance. This catchall category included infractions like talking back or cursing and faced criticism from activists who said they led to racial disparities in school discipline.

After eliminating willful defiance suspensions, the suspension rate in LAUSD dropped to 1.3 percent, half of L.A. County’s rate of 2.8 percent and more than three times lower than the state rate of 4.4 percent.

But community organizers such as McGowan question whether the district’s impressive suspension rate tells the whole story about discipline in LAUSD. His organization represents students in South Los Angeles schools, where they’re subject to informal suspensions, he said.

“They find a room to send them,” he said of local schools. “They’re not going to call it in-school suspensions, but one high school has a Room 100 where they send kids.”

McGowan also asserted that schools sometimes remove students “having a bad day” from class by asking parents to pick them up.

“They’re sending kids out of the classroom for extended periods of time,” he said. “They’re just not counting it as out-of-school suspensions.”

Earl Perkins, LAUSD’s assistant superintendent of school operations, denied McGowan’s claims.

“Informal suspensions are not in our makeup,” he said. “There might have been one case. We have referral rooms for students, but it’s not suspension. They may go out of class, but it’s not suspension. We don’t have ghost suspensions. It’s not supposed to be happening. If it does, it’s dealt with very severely.”

But like McGowan, Kim McGill, a Youth Justice Coalition organizer, expressed concerns about the tactics LAUSD uses to lower its rate of suspensions and expulsions. She said that some schools pressure families to transfer their children to continuation or alternative schools to keep discipline numbers down.

“Our main concern is that schools are pushing students out of the comprehensive school district,” she said. “Our concern is that schools can reformat things so it looks like expulsion [but] has a different name.”


LA POLICE COMMISSION PREZ AIMS TO CUT DOWN ON OFFICERS’ USE-OF-FORCE INCIDENTS

In an interview with NPR’s Kelly McEvers, Matt Johnson, president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, said his goal is to reduce officer use-of-force numbers, through de-escalation training and an examination of the less-than-lethal weapons officers use.

Johnson is the only black member of the civilian commission tasked with overseeing the LAPD. Johnson says his personal experiences with racism from law enforcement officers in New Jersey (his home state) give him a unique perspective on the “crisis of confidence” between communities of color and law enforcement.

Earlier this week, WLA pointed to KPCC’s gathering of five years worth of data on police involved-shootings. The LA-based NPR station found that LA officers (LASD, LAPD, and others) shot 375 people, of whom, about one in four was unarmed.

Here’s a clip from the interview:

JOHNSON: We’ll look at tactics in training. We’ll look at the tools that they have, whether it’s Tasers or beanbag shotguns, and we will also look at things like de-escalation techniques which are really – you’re talking about communication skills, verbal skills to bring a situation down. If it’s at a six, let’s try and bring it down to a two rather than having it get to a ten.

[SNIP]

MCEVERS: You’ve been criticized by protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement because you now work inside the system. Is that going to make it hard for you to work with certain people in the community?

JOHNSON: Well, I think, first of all, you have to recognize that that is one group out of many, many, many groups, and it’s not really about me as an individual although they may say otherwise. Look; I understand the pain and anger that comes out of where they’re coming from. Their anger is at the institution, and as president of the Police Commission, I am absolutely the representative, the primary representative of the commission. And one – you know, along with the chief of police, we are primary representatives of the police department.

So my focus is really on two things. We have to really look very hard at every one of these use-of-force instances and judge them fairly. And secondly and probably more importantly, we need to be making sure that we’re doing everything we can to decrease the numbers of use-of-force.


AND WHILE WE’RE ON THE TOPIC OF USE-OF-FORCE….POLICE UNIONS BLAST LAPD CHIEF CHARLIE BECK’S “PRESERVATION OF LIFE” AWARD

On Tuesday, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck announced the creation of a new award, called the “Preservation of Life Medal,” to recognize officers who “display commendable restraint” rather than use deadly force. The medal, Chief Beck said, would be on the same level as the Medal of Valor.

The police chief pointed to two particular recent instances in which officers safely took suspects into custody. In one of the incidents, two officers wrestled a man with a sawed-off rifle into submission. “It could have easily been an incident where deadly force was deployed, but it was not,” Beck said.

“I know many times at the commission, you hear about the times when officers are forced into using deadly force,” Beck said to the commission. “But I also want to make sure we cover and recognize the many times law enforcement officers are able to save lives by their restraint.”

The LA Times editorial board applauds the decision as part of a larger effort on the part of Chief Beck to address use-of-force issues. Here’s a clip:

Of course, an award alone won’t immediately change public opinion or police behavior. But it’s a step in the right direction. What’s more, the announcement at Tuesday’s Police Commission meeting was just one manifestation of the attention Beck and other L.A. officials have been paying recently to the public’s concerns about deadly encounters between officers and suspects.

At the meeting, Beck described the details of a fatal officer-involved shooting on Monday in Lake Balboa, and he reported statistics on the use of force and how many of the suspects involved were African American. This is new. In recent years, Beck typically hasn’t talked about shootings by officers during his weekly report to the commission (because such shootings had been way down, at least until this year).

These actions and others, such as the expansion of training for police officers in how to de-escalate tense situations, suggest that Beck and Mayor Eric Garcetti are taking seriously complaints from the public about unnecessary use of force. After a slow start, Garcetti has called on Beck and Matt Johnson, a recent appointee to the commission, to respond. To their credit, they have.

But not everyone is pleased with the new award. Beck’s announcement of the new award raised the hackles of leaders from the police union, who made the point that officers hold their fire whenever possible, but shouldn’t hold their fire to the point of endangering their lives.

KPCC’s Frank Stoltze has more on the police union’s statement.

Posted in Education, LAPD, Willful defiance | No Comments »

Eight Years of Misclassified Crime, George Gascón on Risk-Assessment, and LA Audit$ Troubled Group Home

October 16th, 2015 by Taylor Walker

NEW INVESTIGATION FINDS LAPD MISREPORTED THOUSANDS OF SERIOUS ASSAULTS BETWEEN 2005-2012

Last year, an LA Times investigation revealed the LAPD misclassified hundreds of serious violent offenses as minor offenses in 2013. Last week, an audit found similar errors in the department’s 2014 crime stats. The Times’ Ben Poston, Joel Rubin, and Anthony Pesce took another look, and found that the misreporting could be traced back at least an additional eight years.

This new investigation found that between 2005-2012, the department mislabeled approximately 14,000 serious assaults as minor offenses, which resulted in inaccurate crime rates.

The misreporting made it appear as if violent crime rates were falling 7% faster, and serious assault rates were falling 16% faster than they actually were. (After taking the miscalculations into account, the analysis found that the city still experienced a decline in violent crime during those eight years.)

LAPD officials acknowledged that the crime data reporting errors could have a negative impact on public trust, and said the department was working to correct as much as possible.

On Thursday evening, WitnessLA’s editor, Celeste Fremon, appeared on on KCRW’s Which Way LA? with host Warren Olney to talk about the Times’ story and the faulty crime stats.

Among the topics discussed was the matter of whether the problem existed prior to 2005, when the Times analysis stopped. Fremon said that WLA’s sources close to the department told us they were not at all shocked by the Times’ findings, and that the practice of creative classification was occurring well before 2005.

A New York Post story by Chris Perez, Shawn Cohen, and Rich Calder jumped to the conclusion that former LAPD Chief (and current NYPD commissioner) “cooked the books,” misclassifying the crimes deliberately to make the city’s crime statistics look better than they actually were.

But according to WLA’s sources, it is more likely that the misreporting in the Bratton era was an artifact of pressure that some officials felt at the station level to meet the weekly and monthly crime reduction goals that were a part of the Bratton-instituted COMPSTAT system. As a consequence, our sources said, some station captains felt an incentive to get the desired results by whatever means available.

One source also suggested that property crimes could be another fertile area for future examination. In the case of property crimes, he said, there was often a subtle discouragement when it came to the reporting of certain lower-level property offenses like car break ins and theft. This “discouragement factor,” he said, could affect overall crime numbers.

UC Berkeley criminologist Barry Krisberg also appeared on WWLA?, and made the point that it would be preferable for independent statisticians to analyze city and county crime data, rather than the various policing agencies involved, thus eliminating the temptation to manipulate the numbers that were reported by officers on the ground.

The Times’ investigation also calls into question some of the recent reports of LA crime spikes. If serious assaults have been underreported for years, we should probably be healthily skeptical (and continue to ask questions about) rises and drops in crime, moving forward.


SF DA GEORGE GASCON: PROSECUTORS SHOULD EMBRACE RISK-ASSESSMENT AS A TOOL TO LOWER INCARCERATION RATES AND RACIAL DISPARITY IN JUSTICE SYSTEM

Writing for the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge “Decision Points” blog series, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón points to risk-assessment as a meaningful tool prosecutors can use to reduce prison and jail populations while also reducing racial disparity in the criminal justice system.

Gascón says prosecutors should trade tradition for a system of risk-based assessment (taking into consideration factors such as prior offenses, marital status, age, sex, education, and employment status) with regard to pre-trial detention and sentencing.

(We at WLA hope the same kind of enthusiasm for risk-assessment will find its way to LA.)

Here’s how Gascón’s essay opens:

Defining new models for success in a system that is so steeped in tradition takes courage, and it takes vision. As a prosecutor and chief law enforcement leader with more than 30 years of service, I believe it is incumbent upon prosecutors to identify new models of public safety that reduce both incarceration and unwarranted racial disparities. While these are challenging goals, a modern justice system that embraces data and evaluation can indeed make real progress.

Risk-based assessment tools provide us with an opportunity to refine how we do our work. Using historical data from our work—what cases we charged and how we resolved them—we can determine with much greater accuracy who is dangerous and needs confinement and who can safely be treated in the community. We can also identify where our decisions may have been influenced by inappropriate factors such as race or ethnicity.

Traditionally, prosecutors’ use of science has been limited to forensics and expert witness testimony. Research-based decision making has not had a prevalent role in our work. Thankfully, advancements in risk-based assessment tools can improve decision making about pretrial release and appropriate sentencing options. Refusing to use our own data about our prior successes and failures, with the goals of making better decisions going forward, is irresponsible. Nearly every profession has been improved through data collection and analysis, and prosecution should be no different. Our profession has historically been cloaked in tradition, often to the detriment of improving outcomes. As the country grapples with the reality of mass incarceration, we must embrace tools that can help us safely reduce our prison and jail population, eliminate unwarranted racial disparities, and improve safety for victims and our community at large.


ON TOP OF STATE AND COUNTY INVESTIGATIONS TROUBLED LONG BEACH GROUP HOME, LA’S AUDITOR-CONTROLLER IS DIGGING THROUGH THE HOME’S FINANCES

The LA County Auditor-Controller’s Office is looking into the finances of a scandal-plagued Long Beach group home run by Bayfront Youth and Family Services after a “risk assessment” of the county’s group homes drew auditors’ attention to Bayfront.

The group home, which is designated a Level 14 (the most restrictive level), is scheduled shut its doors at the end of October after a CA Department of Social Services investigation validated reports of foster kids running away, abuse from staff members, and more. LA County Probation also conducted an investigation, and in July, barred the group home from admitting any new kids.

No details about what the Auditor-Controller is looking for have been revealed. Bayfront’s yearly operational budget is $6.7 million.

In 2014, Bayfront CEO Maryam Ribadu’s salary was $192,000, more than twice as high as the next highest-paid employee, and more than double Ribadu’s 2011 salary. And a 2011 audit of Bayfront spending found that the group home had not returned more than $36,000 in county funds that were supposed to pay for services that the home did not provide to the kids.

Foster care advocates continue to be concerned about a lack of group homes that provide a nurturing and safe environment to foster children.

Over the weekend, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a far-reaching bill to dump the current problematic group home model in favor of Short-Term Residential Treatment Centers, which will have to meet much higher standards of care than today’s group homes.

ProPublica’s Joaquin Sapien, who has been reporting on the ongoing troubles at Bayfront, has the story. Here’s a clip:

Federal tax forms and state budget records show that Bayfront operates on a $6.7 million dollar annual budget drawn primarily from county contracts and state grants. Roughly two-thirds of the money is used to pay the home’s more than 100 staff members; the rest, the records say, is spent mostly on repairs, maintenance, and food and clothing for the children.

[SNIP]

A number of audits have unearthed trouble at Los Angeles group homes and foster care centers in recent years. The Los Angeles Times has reported that Los Angeles County group home and foster care administrators have been caught spending taxpayer dollars on cigarettes, beer, perfume, fine china and other personal expenses. Between 2000 and 2010, auditors found that foster care operators had misspent more than $11 million dollars.

In the last year, the directors of two separate group homes have been charged with embezzlement by the Los Angeles County District Attorney. In September, a couple who ran a home called Little People’s World, pleaded guilty to embezzling or misappropriating thousands of dollars. The former chief executive is set to spend six months in jail.

In April, the financial director and executive director of a group home called Moore’s Cottage were charged with embezzling more than $100,000 from their nonprofit organization and filing false tax returns. The pair pled not guilty and they are set to begin pre-trial hearings in November.

In both cases, the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services had been alerted to evidence of misspending years before it took enforcement action and referred the cases to the district attorney’s office for prosecution.

Posted in LAPD | No Comments »

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